Oscar-winning actor Michael Caine has declared himself in support of voluntary euthanasia. He has revealed in a frank interview that he asked a doctor to help his terminally ill father to die.
Sir Michael’s comments – to be broadcast tonight – are to be found in a story in the Independent. He reveals that his father – Maurice Micklewhite – had cancer of the liver in 1955 and did not have long to live. He was 56.
The Independent quotes Caine as saying: “My father had cancer of the liver and I was in such anguish over the pain he was in that I said to this doctor: ‘Isn’t there anything else you could [do], just give him an overdose and end this?’, because I wanted him to go, and he said: ‘Oh no, no, no, we couldn’t do that.’
“Then, as I was leaving, he said: ‘Come back at midnight.’ I came back at midnight and my father died at five past twelve. So he’d done it . . .”
Caine says he kept the details of his father’s death a secret from his mother, Ellen, who died in 1989.
In the interview, due to go out on Classic FM, the 77-year-old actor is asked whether he agrees with voluntary euthanasia: “Oh I think so, yeah. I think if you’re in a state where life is no longer bearable, if you want to go. I’m not saying that anyone else should make the decision, but I made the request, but my father was semiconscious.”
Although assisted suicide is still an offence in the UK under the 1961 Suicide Act, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, recently issued guidelines that indicated that a person acting out of compassion would be unlikely to face prosecution.
The Independent quotes a spokewoman for the campaign group Dignity in Dying as welcoming Caine’s comments.
“It is unimaginably difficult to watch a loved one suffer against their wishes at the end of their life,” she says. “There is an ethical fudge at the moment that prevents doctors from directly helping a patient to die at the patient’s request, but does allow them to give enough medication to shorten a patient’s life, as long as their intention is to relieve pain, not end life.
“This neither protects people properly from potential abuse nor offers a clear choice for terminally ill adults who wish to control their death.
“We need upfront safeguards which allow people who are terminally ill and mentally competent to be allowed to ask for help to die in the final days or weeks of their lives, whilst also better protecting vulnerable people. The current situation places a terrible emotional burden on both patients, families and their doctors.’”
However, another campaign group, Care Not Killing, says there is always an alternative to euthanasia.